Finally, an ultrabook a sensible person with a realistic budget can love. The Lenovo Ideapad u310 succeeds the U300s, which is Lenovo’s first attempt at making an ultrabook. The clamped book design is inherited (though there’s no denying the MacBook-inspired touch), the signature and comfortable AccuType keyboard is retained, the touchpad remains sizeably generous (with snappy two, three, and four finger multitouch enabled), the fast boot up and resume-from-sleep features are still there (SSD is a great boost), but the tactile feel is a bit compromised (not that many users will even notice that).
Lenovo had to bring the price down to $800 (or Php33,600) and that entailed some build compromises, as you’ll see later. The price cut is crucial, since we all know that notebook makers lost their sense of reality when they first released ultrabooks. Who would buy a Windows laptop patterned after the MacBook that costs just as much as or more than an entry level MacBook Air? Also, for around 29k, you could get a gaming laptop with a dedicated video card, but good luck with the battery life. More on local pricing later.
3rd generation Intel® Core™ i5 3317U processor (1.7 GHz to 2.6 GHz/1600MHz/3MB L3 Cache)
Genuine Windows® 7 Home Premium 64 bit, with MS Office Starter – you have to buy the Office key separately. The MS Word, for example, has a constant right-columned “ad”. There’s also McAffee Antivirus Plus, which constantly pops up for activation plus a thinly veiled threat about security.
13.3” HD Wide Screen (1366×768) with Integrated 1mp Camera. The viewing angles are not good, but if you’re the only one viewing it, it’s great. Surprisingly good to use outdoors. But the colors are a bit washed out.
3 cell Li-ion battery (up to 7 hours of productive usage). 7 hours my foot. In testing, it was just above 5 hours. But the standby time is fine. Left it hibernating overnight and then resumed writing in the afternoon. I wouldn’t dare to do that with an old laptop. Good enough as an on-the-road device, just don’t keep watching videos.
3.7lbs, or 1.7kg. Like holding a small tray with a glass of water on it. Slid in a bag, it’s crazy light. But nowhere close to the weight of an MBA. You’ll feel the difference when you’re sprinting to catch a bus.
500GB SATA and 32GB SSD storage. This explains the fast boot up (12-13 seconds), shut down (8-10 seconds), resume from sleep (2-3 seconds), and resume from long time hibernation. (5-6 seconds). This is also a compromise, since a full SSD costs a bundle. But the trade off is okay since you get 500 GB of storage, most of which you can use. There’s a very small section you can’t touch since it’s allotted to system recovery and install files. Also, since the storage is hybrid, when you save your work and close the lid, you need to wait for all humming to stop, to make sure your files have been saved and the SATA drive has stopped working. In a full SSD storate set up, you just close the lid and pack the notebook away. Compromises.
4GB DDR3 memory. Standard for many ultrabooks these days.
1 x 2.0 USB and 2 x 3.0 USB, HDMI, Ethernet LAN, 2 in 1 card reader.
Intel HD 4000. Good enough for watching high definition videos. But you’d feel the battery life seeping away. Not for gaming; instead, it’s for heavy office work, with equally heavy Facebook time.
Aluminum exterior shell, although there’s a flex when you lean on the lid while the notebook is closed. Same flex with the housing of the keyboard. That’s the build compromise right there. Feels plasticky under that aluminum “cover”.
AccuType keyboard is very comfortable to use. Just the right amount of bounce-back and key spacing, though again not as good as a Mac’s, but good enough. The keys have a “smiley” design wherein the part of each key closer to you is curved. So if you touchtype, your fingers can tell when you’re touching the bottom part of a row. Slightly compensates for the fact it doesn’t have…
Backlighting. Not there. They comfortable keys are good, but a let down when smuggling in work in the bedroom while your wife is asleep. Be prepared to flex the screen close to the keyboard and then flex them back. Or buy a CDR-King USB Led Lamp.
Generously sized touchpad. The touchpad can distinguish between your fingers and your palm, so that there are fewer tapping accidents and cursor jumps. But then you can’t trun it off with a dedicated button, unlike with the HP Folio 13. More on this later.
Dolby® Home Theater® v4 with 2.0 stereo speakers. Loud sound, as in unexpectedly loud and good enough. In a quiet room, you can startle a coworker when playing the theme from Psycho. I’ve tried. I wubbed it. But in a crowded cafe you’ll notice the lack of bass. In VLC, when you pump the volume to 400%, the sound begins to “crack”. So don’t push it. The speakers are wedged between the hinge and the lower chassis, which scared me a bit since I might have blown off crumbs on the keyboard only to bring them to the speaker grill, which is hard to reach with cotton swabs.
One Key Rescue System. There’s a button on the left side, near the hinge, that allows you to recover from a crippling virus, or at least that’s the PR. I haven’t been socializing with that many viruses lately. So I coudn’t check this.
Quiet fan. I never noticed the sound. But I could feel hot air blown through the left side grill, so I know the fan is working.
Heat management though side exhaust grill, intake grill under the notebook, and a “breathable” keyboard. Heat’s not bad, even when I placed the thing on my bed or on top of a pillow or on my lap for long periods. But then I had not had the chance to play 1080p videos until the battery dropped dead. Stays reasonabley cool on your lap, just don’t keep watching videos, or you’ll start to feel the heat. There’s also power management app to help you charge the battery faster and increase its longevity.No DVD tray, as is standard in ultrabooks, though one wishes the extra space might have been alloted to an extra battery or storage.
When the notebook is closed, there’s a curvature to the sides that’s nice to touch. The lid is hard to open at first, because your fingers aren’t accustomed to the texture of the lid’s side. In time, you get it right every time.
Feels solid to grab and lift with one hand. No clanging or loose parts inside when you shake it. This is one sturdy laptop.
No fragile glassy or plastic feel, unlike with the HP Folio 13.
This is one notebook you’ll want to keep bringing with you because it’s nice to hold, carry, type on for hours on end, Facebook on, and be seen with. One reason is the Spartan lack of clutter – there are only two stickers (Intel Core i5 and Windows 7) and most of what you see are the black keys on all gray housing and a big gray touchpad and the black border on the screen and a power button on the upper left side.
The Ideapad U310 unit I reviewed was graphite gray. Two other colors are available – Aqua Blue, which I preferred since it mimics the look of the phased out white MacBook, and Cherry Blossom, a dimmed down cousin of pink, a color I wouldn’t be caught dead with. The Verge reviewed the Aqua Blue version which the reviewer totally loved. My unit wasthe more business oriented type, which probably focused my attention to the function, specs, and objective factors and not the joy to use stuff. I still wonder what I’m missing by not getting the Aqua Blue.
The take away with a Graphite Gray scheme is that it’s resistant to smudges and dirt, which, coupled with the chicklet style keys that prevent crumbs from stuffing the keyboard, is great for workaholics and those of us who are just plain, although very results-oriented, slobs.
The WiFi connection “behaves” at times, but for the most part is consistent. When you connect to a network at one place, like in an office, and then shut down, and reboot at home, the WiFi connects but doesn’t get web access immediately. There’s a one or two-minute wait. I call it a getting-to-know-you again phase. However, this rarely happens when I resume from sleep. Moral lesson: don’t waste time shutting down this notebook.
There have been complaints that the WiFi conks out for no reason or that you can’t get decent bandwidth with it, but I never experienced that in one week of work-flow-used hands on.
The touchpad is snappy though there’s not much use for three finger swiping – for left and right and up and down scrolling through images in your harddrive – and for four finger swiping, which if you do upwards, brings up all the running apps (like what the same gesture does on an iPad) you can switch through. Instinctively I still use Alt+Tab for that. The two finger scroll up and down, however, is fairly standard and works as expected – just don’t suddenly move one or both fingers close or away from each other while scroll up or down, because you’ll pinch in or out to zoom in or out.
The touchpad has a vertical line dividing the left and right button, though sometimes it’s hard to distinguish where you’re clicking: I’m really used to lower buttons distinct from each other because they are two separate physical buttons. The whole touchpad, including the spot where the buttons are found is one big smooth responsive rectangle, which can be confusing to some because the middle part is clickable (left click) and the bottom parts (left and right buttons) are also clickable.
Lenovo has a Synaptics program found under the mouse settings where you can configure how light or how hard you want the touchpad to respond to your taps. To reduce cursor jumps I disabled the light tap feature, which is essentially a left click, and opted for a single hard click in the middle as the left click. The edges of the touchpad can also be programmed for other functions, which I didn’t explore as that came off to me as overkill nerding on the device.
The touchpad’s middle part is clickable (left mouse click) but each click feels like you’re clicking on hard plastic, which felt uncomfortable at first since I’m used to glass touchpads.
Lenovo has downsized the length of the Backspace and Shift keys on the right side of the keyboard, which can be a problem for some touchtypes, especially when you’re typing in dark areas (oh backlight why are you not here?). The Home, End, PgUp and PgDn keys are all in one column on the farthest right of the keyboard, which as it turned out was great if you can get used to using them in tandem with the right Ctrl key, but I had a hard time with that in the dark.
The F buttons (F1 to F12) seem to be accessible only when pressed in tandem with Alt or Ctrl, or if you want to just access one of the F keys, you need to press it with the Function key (Fn). I had not had much time to test this. Traditionally, most laptops’ F keys work as is, meaning you get F1 when you press F1. With the U310, F1 mutes the speaker, F2 tones down the volume, F3 cranks it up . . . F11 dims the brightness, and F12 turns up the same. This is good for quick fixes – such as suddenly needing to mute the cat video at work and such. But if you do are used to the old way, you need to get used to it. I’m fine with with, after a week’s use.
As we’ve reported before, the Lenove Ideapad u310, as spec’d above, costs P40,000.00. It’s actually Php46,000.00 at Villman, but only $800.00 (33,600.00Php) at Best Buy. So a good way to save on shell out money would be to FB message a friend or relative in the US and have them come home with the U310. After all, the season of giving is upon us.
If you’ve always wanted a light, thin, good-looking, okay-battery-lifed, quick-to-boot-and-resume Windows notebook that looks like a MacBook, but with a price you won’t bleed with, the Lenovo Ideapad U310 is it. Heck, I spent a week with it and I dont’ wanna let it go. To heck with Windows 8 and gaming. I can bring this baby anywhere and write for hours on end without a plug. The hybrid set up of OS on an SSD and a big SATA drive as storage is great, unlike the SATA drive set up of a thinner and cheaper ‘ultrabook’ that’s also from Lenovo.
With the signature AccuType keyboard, which is actually a vital factor when you type all day, the U310, to me, is a feature that makes a thin Lenovo as good as sold. I’m not complaining about the battery life since I only watch stuff at home, and rarely on long bus trips – there’s the iPad for that. But if you spend 9 hours at school or on the road with not many power outlets available, you might want to buy a portable battery you can plug into or excercise some notebook charging discipline.
Video tour below.
Visit Lenovo for more U310 specific info and config options.
You must be logged in to post a comment.